Australian Media, over the past couple of weekends, have highlighted the nations problem with alcohol. Headlines such as “Take Back the Streets, Two Nights of Living Hell and Police stabbed in Drunken Brawl” splashed across the front pages of the nations newspapers.
In New South Wales the Premier and Police Commissioner gave a press conference after a weekend of alcohol-fuelled violence which saw 540 arrests in one weekend. Police claim the arrests are evidence that messages about sensible drinking are not getting through, and that simply putting more officers on the street will not solve the problem.
However, the weekends arrests only came after a national police crackdown on drinking – Operation Unite last weekend, Rushmore this weekend – the reality is police operations are entirely symbolic, alcohol and drug fueled violence is an ongoing reality in Australia, not a one-off weekend of over-exuberant drinking.
A quick skip through the nations newspapers confirms the problem is national, and just like the management of the problem – alcoholism – no overbearing solution has been offered for what looks like a nation of overdrinkers.
If only it were that simple. The latest trend for revellers is a dangerous cocktail of alcohol and ice. The combination of a drug that increases stupidity – alcohol – and an illicit substance – methamphetamine – that causes uncontrollable anger and aggression has taken a solid hold in the Australian party scene ::::
Writing this post belays the feeling of Groundhog Day, each year Australian’s fix themselves to celebratory dates, drinking to stupidity seems to be a national passtime. Indeed you could set your calendar to the brawling Aussie holiday seasons:
January 26, Australia Day: Specialist Riot Control police flown into Manly to control brawling revellers. 2011 Police were run off their feet on Australia Day, with boozed brawls breaking out across the nation. 2010 Across the nation, from the beaches to major country centres, hundreds of people were charged. 2009 Police needed capsicum spray to subdue young adults who broke into street fights at a long weekend fireworks display at Corrigans Beach. 2008 Teams of officers remained stationed at the popular Burleigh Heads beach after a mass brawl broke out. 2007 Police arrested dozens of people, mostly juveniles, after drunken Australia Day celebrations turned ugly on an Adelaide beach.
…and this is just one of a dozen long weekends in Australia!
As we rapidly head toward the Christmas break, the violence has escalated with each passing weekend. NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said that the results of last weekends “Operation Unite” were marginally better than last year, but he is taking no comfort from that fact.
“The reality is I’m saddened, I’m annoyed and sometimes I think we’re almost at the point where people need to start falling out of love with the alcohol,” Commissioner Scipione said. “They need to understand that this type of behaviour, that we actually go out and arrest people for during Operation Unite, is something that unless they make the change, we won’t see any marked difference.”
“The Reality is Police Operations Like Unite are Symbolic.”
Co-chair of the National Alliance for Action on Alcohol, Professor Mike Daube says the New South Wales Government needs to do more to address problem drinking.
“The state governments can’t just talk rhetoric and do nothing, the alcohol lobby is immensely powerful,” Mr Daube said. “It’s not just the pubs. It’s also the bottle shops, it’s the clubs, and somehow they seem to be able to convince governments that doing nothing is the answer to the problem.”
Media outlets like the Sydney Morning Herald – SMH – have spruiked the problem with the usual dramatised twist. “In the last few days, police in WA and the rest of Australia, have been confronting alcohol fuelled idiots determined to inflict injury on someone. Anyone.” The SMH said. “In pubs, glassing is all too common. On the streets knives and machetes are carried by groups of young men prepared to use them.”
Clearly there is more at play than alcohol fueled unrest, the end of the school year, increased alcohol intake, work parties and the abundant use of Ice/methamphetamine all culminating in an what seems like increase in violence.
Drunken violence ‘escalating’ in Sydney
This weekend NSW Police are saying they are disturbed by the level of violence and intoxication they have seen in inner Sydney during a two-day blitz on anti-social behaviour. It’s not the number but the nature of the alcohol-related incidents that police are concerned by.
Superintendent Tony Crandell said officers had seen “random attacks … people that simply assault people for no apparent reason”.
Operation Rushmore targeted alcohol-related crime in Sydney’s CBD over the weekend. 25 people have been arrested and charged for a range of offences, including assault and affray.
While the number of arrests is lower than the previous year, Superintendent Crandell said the level of violence in each incidence has shown an escalation. There is a direct link between the nature of the assaults and how much people are drinking, he said.
“Greater levels of intoxication … attract greater levels of violence.”
Eight of those detained were taken to the sobering up unit as they were unable to look after themselves. On Friday, two police officers taking part in the operation were taken to hospital after a scuffle broke out while they were making an arrest.
Superintendent Crandell said those who were involved are lucky not to have suffered serious injuries.
“Whilst there may be less offences, the gravity of those offences are certainly serious,” he said. “Even if some of the victims are not suffering that’s more to my mind a matter of good fortune rather than by design.”
Alcohol was a factor every arrest the police made, he said.
National Approach to Problem Drinking
Dr Alex Wodak from the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation says the Commonwealth must show leadership in the fight against problem drinking. We do know what to do about it,” Dr Wodak said. “The problem is that the politicians, whoever forms government, aren’t prepared to do the things that we know work, and we presume the drinks industry stops them doing it. It comes down to price and availability. Alcohol is too cheap and it’s too available. There are too many outlets, the hours are too long, the conditions are too liberal. Almost every family in Australia is touched by at least one member with a severe alcohol problem.”
“Why won’t the politicians do something to protect the community?”
NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell says that the Government has had success in reducing alcohol-fuelled violence in problem areas, but a “one-size-fits-all” approach will not work.
“Don’t under estimate the success of the liquor accords delivered in Manly which was one of the hot spots on a Friday and Saturday night which has now considerably calmed down,” Premier O’Farrell said. “Don’t underestimate the range of efforts we’ve put in place with the City of Sydney and a variety of agencies up at King’s Cross that have also seen a reduction in the last figures I saw of almost a third in assaults on licensed premises.”
The shocking death last year of teenager Thomas Kelly after being king hit in Sydney’s infamous Kings Cross focused attention on alcohol-fuelled violence in nightclub districts, but has anything really changed over that 18 months?
RELATED! Queensland Police Officer Filmed Punching Brisbane Man
A key witness to an alleged unprovoked attack by Queensland Police on a man outside a Brisbane nightclub has destroyed the original video recording of the incident that he made, despite police making a public appeal for it.
Joe Ritson says he’s “formatted” the mobile phone on which he filmed the incident and also deleted a file from his computer. Mr Ritson filmed QPS officers appearing to strike a man outside the Beat Nightclub on Friday night. He then posted the video on YouTube, prompting widespread media coverage.
However, he later removed the clip from YouTube. Mr Ritson says he has discussed the incident with officers from the Ethical Standards Command (ESC) of Queensland Police, although he said he had not been formally interviewed. He insists he did not delete the material under pressure from anyone.
“I have removed the original video from all of my personal storage,” Mr Ritson said in a statement. “ESC have informed me that in doing so, I have not prevented them from investigating the incident. I would like to clarify that absolutely no pressure from anybody was placed on me to do this – it wasn’t even suggested that I delete the footage – especially not by the ESC – who told me that it was mine to do with what I please. I will be assisting the ESC in their enquiries, and all the contact I have had with them so far has been voluntary. They have been extremely professional in their investigation.”
The member of the public who appears in the video with the three officers has been reported as saying he wanted to press assault charges after seeing the footage. Mr Ritson told the ABC he had found the furore generated by his video very stressful.
“I did not specifically intend for my comments to be interpreted as allegations of assault and/or brutality,” he said in his statement.
On Saturday, Queensland Police called for “the person who took the video to contact the service and to provide the original video and any further information in relation to this incident”.
Queensland’s Police Union has said it has seen CCTV footage that supports the conduct of the three officers who appear in the video. A QPS spokeswoman said: “The matter is still being investigated and being reviewed by Ethical Standards Command. There have been no charges.”
RELATED! Bondi Attack
Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital says a man remains in a critical but stable condition, two days after a violent bashing at Bondi Beach.
The 23-year-old was punched and had his head stomped on before he was found lying in a gutter in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Police say they are reviewing CCTV footage from surrounding bars and shops in the hope of identifying a suspect. They are also speaking with friends who were drinking with the man in a park before the attack.
In separate incidents, police have released security footage of two men they would like to speak to about a fight outside a Bondi hotel.
One man was knocked unconscious during the melee on the footpath around lunchtime on Saturday. Six men were arrested after an alleged scuffle with police outside a pub in Darlinghurst early on Sunday morning. Officers say they had to use a baton and OC spray after the group confronted them after being asked to get off the road.
NSW Deputy Commissioner Nick Kaldas says people need to think about the consequences of their actions.
“These sorts of incidents have very long-term and very serious implications for people, not only for victims who get assaulted and their families but for the offenders themselves,” he said.
“If you find yourself arrested and charged, put before a court and convicted, it will probably stop you from being able to travel to a fair part of the world, probably mean a whole lot of jobs you will never be able to get because of that criminal conviction, let alone the shame and the angst of going to a court and having your whole family shamed in that way.”
RELATED! Thomas Kelly’s Parents Horrified at Light Sentence for Killer
Kieran Loveridge was today jailed for at least four years for manslaughter, with a maximum of six years. The 19-year-old randomly punched Mr Kelly in the head in July last year as he walked with his girlfriend and spoke on his mobile phone in the nightclub precinct.
November 14, 2013: Thomas Kelly’s parents say they are “completely shocked” at the sentence handed down to the man who fatally punched the 18-year-old in Sydney’s Kings Cross.
The single punch knocked Mr Kelly to the ground and he died from head injuries in St Vincent’s Hospital two days later.
In the Supreme Court in Sydney today, Loveridge was sentenced to a maximum of six years in jail for manslaughter plus another 18 months for four other assaults he committed on the same night.
Loveridge will be eligible for parole in November 2017 after serving five years and two months in prison. The combined maximum sentence for the manslaughter and assaults is seven years and two months.
Speaking outside court, Mr Kelly’s father Ralph Kelly was clearly shocked.
“We have spent the last hour in court listening to the verdict which supports the offender and leaves us as the victim’s family completely cold, shocked, and just beyond belief that the sentence was just so lenient,” Ralph Kelly said. “It’s time that this state, that Barry O’Farrell, finally did something about alcohol-fuelled violence to make a difference, to make us all safe so that we don’t have to see these situations continuously happening in the city.”
His wife Kathy Kelly also condemned the verdict.
“We’re horrified. Absolutely horrified,” Mrs Kelly said. “How many boys or how many of our children have to die before somebody does something to change these laws to make people accountable for what they do?
“Somebody else will be standing here in a few months or a year’s time like we are and be heartbroken. Four years for your son’s life.”
Justice Stephen Campbell told the court he had carefully considered the victim impact statements from Mr Kelly’s family.
“From them I have formed the impression that Thomas must have been a wonderful young man full of promise for the future and of whom his parents were justly proud,” Justice Campbell said.
He said Loveridge, for reasons of drunkenness, was unable or unwilling to control his aggressive urges.
Justice Campbell noted that Loveridge wept in court when the Kelly family read out their victim impact statements last month, which he said he took as a sincere expression of remorse.
“In my judgment the offender is very unlikely to re-offend. I have the very distinct impression that from the tragic consequences his offending has brought about, he has well and truly learnt his lesson,” Justice Campbell said. “I find that the combination of the offender’s youth, remorse, prospects of rehabilitation and the need to structure sentences for multiple offences constitute special circumstances.”
New South Wales Attorney-General Greg Smith quickly announced he would ask the Director of Public Prosecutions to appeal against the sentence.
“Thomas Kelly was the victim of an unprovoked attack and I have great sympathy for his family who are devastated by their loss,” Mr Smith said in a statement. “Drunken assaults are a terrible scourge and every weekend we hear about attacks by intoxicated, irresponsible people on bystanders who are lucky to escape with their life. “I have contacted the Director of Public Prosecutions and asked him to review the sentence handed down today to Kieran Loveridge and consider if there are grounds for an appeal.”
RELATED! CCTV Keeping An Eye on Kings Cross Thugs
Drunken thugs who pack the weekend streets of Kings Cross will have nowhere to hide under plans to blanket the notorious precinct with CCTV cameras.
Despite being busier on a Saturday night than peak hour at Town Hall station, there are only three council CCTV cameras in the Cross, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.
And the bouncers, bikies, drug dealers and other crooks know all the blackspots.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore said yesterday the council was now conducting a feasibility study into adding dozens of extra surveillance cameras because the NSW Government was doing nothing.
Pressure for the 24-hour eyes on the street has come from frustrated police and licensees. It would “dramatically” change the face of Kings Cross on weekends, said Doug Grand, head of the Kings Cross Liquor Accord :: Read the full article »»»»